iphone5 is Giving Older iPhones in Best Buy Momment

Wednesday, August 24th 2011. | Gadget News

Here’s how close the iPhone 5 release date is to being a reality: Best Buy is giving older iPhones away, and Apple is allowing it. Actually, you missed it: the free iPhone-a-thon (with two year contract, naturally) was yesterday and it was only for the aging 3GS, with the flagship iPhone 4 still (for now) mostly holding its flagship price points. But the desire on the part of Apple to dump the inventory of the circa-2009 iPhone, which is still around as the bargain-bin model for now, to the point of actually invoking the word “free” shows just how close the iPhone 5 is. Apple had previously allowed AT&T to blow out refurbished iPhone models for nine dollars, but this represents the first Apple-approved foray into “free iPhone” territory. It’s a byproduct both of the increasing commoditization of the overall smartphone market and of the continued iPhone 5 delays, which have the iPhone 4 still in pole position for far longer than was expected or apparently intended. And it could be a sign of things to come, not just in terms of model numbers but their price tags as well.

Whether the iPhone 4 survives past the release date of the iPhone 5 is still up in the air. Apple can opt to keep the 4 around as the new bargain-bin model, pricing it at $99 or $49 in contrast to the $199 entry price point of the iPhone 5. Or Apple could decide that the iPhone 4, which has been around for nearly fifteen months, has seen three incarnations in the original AT&T iPhone 4, later Verizon iPhone 4, and bonus-time white iPhone 4, has seen its day come and go. Both the Verizon and AT&T variants of the iPhone 4 could bite the dust in favor of a lower-end iPhone 5 variant, resulting in an all-5 iPhone lineup spanning the price range from $299 to $199 to – dare we say it – free. There’s nothing to stop Apple from offering either the iPhone 4 or a new baby-spec iPhone 5 as a free-with-contract option, so long as it can recoup the cost from the carrier through the course of the contract.

Whether Apple sets the iPhone 5 free with a “free” price tag, or does the same with the iPhone 4, or opts to keep dollar signs assigned to all of the various iPhone models once the iPhone 5 era begins, one thing is clear: the fact that Best Buy was seen giving away the 3GS today means that Apple and retailers want that model gone sooner than later, cleared out of inventory so as to make room for whatever takes its place. That means that the iPhone 5 release date is tantalizingly close. It also means that Apple is, at least for the moment, willing to allow the words “iPhone” and “free” to appear in the same sentence. It’s a trend worth watching as the iPhone 5 faces competing Android-based phones with a zero dollar price tag, particularly with Apple in position to recoup any free iPhone deals via methods ranging from carrier compensation to App Store sales and beyond.

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